Flanders Moss NNR
There are invaders on the bog. Quietly, they have taken root and, gradually, they are spreading. They may be small, but they are determined.
But they will not spread unchallenged. Up against them: the Flanders Moss volunteers. And they are more determined still.
The invaders: Labrador Tea, a small relative of the rhododendron. The history of the plant’s arrival on Flanders Moss is covered here in some detail by Ellen. In brief, whilst slow-growing, the plant threatens to compete with native bog species. To prevent the bog from becoming a knee-high forest of Labrador Tea, the team set out each year to keep it in check. The most effective way to reduce its spread is simply to pull it by hand.
The most recent episode of ‘volunteers versus invaders’ occurred on a particularly soggy Wednesday. We reached the Labrador Tea by traversing a particularly soggy section of bog. And, as the Labrador Tea gave as good as it got, there were few of us at end of play who were not particularly, if not generally, soggy.
For this plant was not going down without a fight. We sought to uproot it, or at least to break the root beneath the water line to prevent regrowth. As Steve has written about elsewhere, the task requires a mixture of finesse and brute force, in order to protect the nearby sphagnums in the process.
Each of us determinedly hand-pulling, we were occasionally distracted by the occasional squeaks of our peers, unbalanced by roots snapping. We let out determined and ferocious grunts as we tackled the roots. We were, in short, an alarming bunch.
Uprooting is a lengthy process, and whilst we cleared a good area of the Labrador Tea, there’s a fair amount to go at yet. Still, through these volunteer work parties, we’re able to plug away at it, preventing spread and reducing the extent of coverage year on year.
As we’ve entered Tier 4, we won’t see the team again for the next few weeks, and we’ll miss their determination, humour, and hard graft. We have reassured them, however, that there’s plenty more to do when they return…